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Game Key Reseller G2A Offers Royalties To Developers

Tiny Tussle

Last week G2A, a sort of eBay but for video games keys, and tinyBuild, the publishers of Speedrunners and others, had a bit of a tussle after tinyBuild accused G2A of facilitating the sale of $450,000 worth of fraudulent game keys. Both sides exchanged demands, and today G2A seems to have pulled back on their stance and is now rolling out a program that will, in part, offer developers and publishers up to 10 percent royalties on each sale of their game. But is that going to be enough?

All of this stems from a blog post last week by tinyBuild accusing G2A of selling $450,000 worth of their games without tinyBuild seeing a single penny from the sales. tinyBuild accused G2A of facilitating a "black market economy" by allowing merchants to use stolen credit cards to purchase keys from bundles of third-party resellers and then sell them for much lower than their going rate.

This is far from the first scuffle over keys supposedly obtained fraudulently. Ubisoft notably killed a load of Uplay keys last year, and there are many more stories.

In the case of tinyBuild's own store, tinyBuild CEO Alex Nichiporchik said, "the shop collapsed when we started to get hit by chargebacks. I'd start seeing thousands of transactions, and our payment provider would shut us down within days. Moments later you’d see G2A being populated by cheap keys of games we had just sold on our shop."

In response, G2A demanded that tinyBuild cooperate with them by providing a database of the keys that tinyBuild believes were illegally obtained and sold through G2A within three days, which Nichiporchik promptly refused. In an interview with Polygon, he said: "Everybody knows their reputation. Why would anyone even consider giving them a list of keys to ‘verify’? I believe they'd just resell those keys and make more money off of it."

In response, tinyBuild issued their own demands that G2A:

  1. Allow publishers to set a minimum price for the distributed products
  2. Set a minimum cut for all 3rd party sales of said keys (these would come out of merchants' cut)
  3. Actually verify your merchants. I just made an account and within an hour was able to sell a ton of keys, no verification whatsoever. If Ebay allowed you to sell merchandise without verifying sellers’ credentials (they ask you for IDs, statements confirming addresses, tie it to your bank account, etc), they’d probably under similar fire right now as they’d facilitate stolen goods trade.

Now it would appear that G2A is, at least in part, trying to restore its reputation with tinyBuild and other developers angry over the "fundamentally flawed" business model that it operates on. In a release sent to Eurogamer, G2A have outlined a new program that will be rolling out on July 29th.

"Recent events have demonstrated that we need to move faster to introduce new benefits designed with developers in mind, and invite them to play an even bigger role in creating the marketplace of the future," G2A said.

Part of that new program includes developers being able to apply to earn up to 10 percent royalties. G2A is also responding to accusations of facilitating a black market for fraudulent keys by allowing developers access to their database to verify sales and volume in order to help identify illegal selling. There's also a new funding option which lets consumers contribute funds through a special button on a developer's product page.

Still, judging by the reaction of tinyBuild, G2A's new program is not enough. For one, it doesn't address the first point in their demands about setting minimum prices for keys and it also fails to address allegations of widespread credit card fraud fueling G2A's economy. Secondly, it also requires companies like tinyBuild to cooperate with G2A, something that they might not be willing to do if, like tinyBuild, they think that the reseller is screwing them over.

"The only tangible part about their program is royalties to developers and database access which undoubtedly is a good step — we will need to see how it works in practice," Nichiporchik said in another update to tinyBuild's blog post after G2A announced this. He continued:

"It still doesn't solve the issue of stolen keys, or the shady business practice of forcing down insurance on consumers. Try buying something on G2A, you won't get a guaranteed key unless you sign-up for their insurance service. It seems they want it all to be on developers' hands, and unless the devs become actively involved in policing G2A (and thus working with them), they'll wash their hands off any responsibility."

"We as a community want to see more extensive merchant verification to go alongside this.

"Unless they actually solve the main issue — fraud on their platform — this initiative invites developers to become accomplices. G2A claims that fraud is a very small part of their economy. If so, it shouldn't be that difficult to implement ethical business practices of extensive merchant verification?"

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Steven Messner